We all want clean air. We all want to breathe freely, easily and particle-free.
However, certain communities — disproprtionately low-income and communities of color — didn’t get a choice in the matter. They didn’t pollute the air and they didn’t build the highways. These communities, integral parts of our cities, should not continue to pay an overshare of the impacts of an avoidable problem.
A clean fuel standard can create a healthy, livable future for all no matter where you call home in Washington. Olympia must pass E2SHB 1110, which requires oil refiners and importers to reduce the carbon intensity of fuels by 20 percent by 2035, while simultaneously creating more homegrown jobs in the production of clean, low-carbon fuels.
The data is clear low-income communities and communities of color face greater risks and pay more for climate impacts and pollution.
The legacy of industrial pollution, manufacturing, highway construction and highway freight routes aren’t found in the suburbs. High housing costs and historical redlining discrimination place low-income populations and communities of color in areas that are more severely impacted by mismanagement of toxicants and pollution. These consequences are more than just noise, discomfort and eyesores it’s air pollution, children with greater rates of asthma, destruction of cultural traditions (think fishing in the Duwamish), more disease and increased stress, and ultimately loss of life.
A wide range of studies and modeling in recent years have drilled down on demographics, location and even level of employment and education to show who suffers due to exposure to the impacts of climate change and pollution. The takeaway? Even if their air quality meets federal health standards, communities of color and people with less education, high poverty and/or unemployment face greater health risks. Tiny particles of air pollution from cars contain more hazardous ingredients (like nickel, sulfur or nitrates) in non-White and low-income communities than in affluent White ones. Where you live and work shouldn’t determine the air you breathe, but in reality, it is a determining factor.
Clean air shouldn’t be a political issue. We have a responsibility to enact strong policies to address the impacts of climate change, decrease pollution and prioritize public health. Transportation emissions are the source of nearly half of Washington’s carbon and air pollution and is a major driving factor in our climate crisis. E2SHB 1110’s clean fuel standard offers a brighter and healthier future by gradually transitioning our transportation fuels to cleaner sources (like sustainable or renewable biofuels), supporting our local economy and righting the historical inequities of those who suffer the most from dirty air.
Similar policies are already successful in Oregon, California and British Columbia. Studies on the results of California’s clean fuels program show it has helped to avoid $1.6 billion in health-related impacts from air pollution so far, including nearly 90,000 cases of respiratory symptoms, 8,000 cases of asthma-related health issues and 15,000 lost work days. It’s time for Washington to join the club.
We all know the power of taking a deep breath. Nobody should have to breathe in toxic air while they are trying to live, work and grow. Clean air means a healthier, more prosperous Washington, and E2SHB 1110’s clean fuel standard allows us to a create livable future for all, no matter what part of the state you call home.
Rich Stolz is the executive director at OneAmerica, the largest immigrant and refugee advocacy organization in Washington State.
Read the full March 20 - 26 issue.
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